Berkeley residents co-hosted a Halloween-themed block party Saturday, seeking to bring together their neighborhood after recent shootings shook the community.
The idea of hosting a party originated at a community safety meeting organized by Oakland attorney Arabelle Malinis, who had raised neighborhood safety concerns following the shootings, Malinis noted.
Community members, including Malinis, Berkeley City Auditor Jenny Wong and Michelle Schurig, director of In Your Corner at the Alameda County Probation Department, decided hosting a block party would help build a sense of trust and rapport among the neighborhood, according to Schurig.
“Following one of our neighborhood meetings, we decided that it would be a good idea to do something on the positive side of connecting people and bringing people together,” Wong said.
According to the Berkeley Police Department’s 2020 and 2021 annual crime report, the first nine months of 2021 have seen 38 confirmed shooting incidents, an increase from the 26 that occurred in the same timeframe a year prior.
The increase in shootings has frightened the greater Berkeley community, according to Wong. She noted hearing the gunshots from her own home.
“I’ve been living in the neighborhood for 14 years and had not heard gunshots in 14 years,” Wong said. “So to hear three sets of gunshots within a two-month period was quite shocking.”
Given the recent uptick in crime amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the block party provided city residents with a sense of positivity and offered them a chance to engage with others, Schurig noted.
According to Malinis, the party also served as a reminder of the importance of forming and building connections.
“In light of all the activity in the area recently, it was great to come together as a community in a joyful way,” said Yalda Modabber, a city resident. “It was lovely.”
Wong noted the party brought together neighbors who had never met before due to the period of isolation during the pandemic.
The block party was a conglomeration of community efforts. According to Schurig, a local chef cooked paella for the entire neighborhood to share, while a resident musician provided live music for the event. Neighbors all contributed what they could.
“It was just so lovely to have all these people come together to share food and stories and get to know each other,“ Wong said.
According to Malinis, the event was a success and fulfilled its purpose of creating a tighter-knit community. She added that the Halloween Block Party may become an annual event.
Other community members expressed similar sentiments.
“This is the beginning of a long tradition,” Modabber said.